RIP, Danish Siddiqui: Pulitzer-Winning Photojournalist, Chronicler of His Times
Reuters Chief Photographer Danish Siddiqui was unsparing in his depiction of harsh reality.
“A photo should draw people and tell them the whole story without being loud," Reuters Chief Photographer Danish Siddiqui had told the Scroll.in in 2018, shortly after he won the Pulitzer Prize. He was one of the only two Indians to have won the prestigious award for Feature Photography.
Siddiqui had cut a vacation short in 2017, for this Reuters' series documenting the plight of Myanmar’s minority Rohingya community and their mass exodus to Bangladesh. But this wasn't Siddiqui's singular exemplary contribution to journalism.
His extensive body of work includes reports from the Nepal earthquake (2015), the Battle of Mosul (2016-17), prior to the Rohingya crisis. He would go on to chronicle a slew of events that shaped global history, including the Hong Kong protests (2019-2020), Northeast Delhi riots, the horrors of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resultant migrant exodus in India, in raw, hard-hitting photographs.
Danish Siddiqui was killed in the line of duty on Friday, 16 July, while covering a clash between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters near a border crossing with Pakistan.
In what would end up becoming his last dispatch before his death, Siddiqui, had on Tuesday detailed a mission undertaken by Afghan forces to rescue a trapped and wounded policeman amid an attack on them.
Sharing a visual of one of the rockets hitting the armour plate overhead, alongside a brief video, Siddiqui had written that he "was lucky to be safe."
A resident of New Delhi, Siddiqui graduated with a degree in Economics from Jamia Millia Islamia. He then went on to pursue a degree in Mass Communication from Jamia's AJK Mass Communication Research Centre. Mourning Siddiqui's demise, Jamia alumni have written, in a statement, that they are shocked and saddened by the news of his death, and proud of his achievements.
Formerly a TV journalist, Siddiqui relinquished his well-paying job to join Reuters as an intern in 2010, and subsequently embarked on a series of challenging assignments.
Speaking to Forbes about the hurdles he faced during the assignment that won him the Pulitzer, Danish Siddiqui lamented not being able to go to the other side of the border to Myanmar, while shedding light on the emotional challenges of his assignment:
"I am the father of a two-year-old and to see kids drowning is terrible. But, as a journalist, you’ve got to do your job. I’m happy I was able to balance profession and emotion and know when to drop my camera to save kids left in water by fishermen."
The Quint's Associate Editor Shadab Moizee remembers Danish – who he often met at protests and other such events – for his stellar professionalism and how his "news sense was different from all of us."
Talking about yet another iconic photograph by Danish, a man curled in the middle of the road, flanked by a frenzied mob raining batons and blows on him amid the Northeast Delhi riots, Moizee said: "Danish would always show professionalism. His job was to take a photograph, and record the evidence, after that it was on the police and the system to do their job and look into it."
Moizee, further, shared that Siddiqui helped him get in touch with the man in the photograph – Mohammad Zubair – for an interview, but he was always cautious about the man's safety.
"He gave me the lead, but he said I am telling you his location, you speak to him. But keeping his safety in mind, don't allow his location to become public."Shadab Moizee
"He would also discuss these things and guide us. How to conceal the identity of the subject for their safety. How to keep their location from being disclosed," Moizee further elaborated on the qualities of the conscientious scribe.
Danish Siddiqui had also photographed Rambhakt Gopal wielding his gun at a crowd of anti-CAA protesters outside Jamia last year, while a line of cops looked on. Commending him for the photograph, Moizee said: "If he hadn’t been present there, nobody would have found out about the exact situation."
An Unsparing 'Chronicler Of His Times'
Siddiqui's photographs of blazing pyres, while bodies in blue plastic bags await their turn, exposed the horrifying reality of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India. Last year, his pictures from the migrant exodus amid a COVID-induced lockdown broke a million hearts globally, and also ruffled some feathers.
Siddiqui was unsparing in his depiction of harsh reality, and as journalist Manisha Pande points out a "remarkable chronicler of his times."
Fatima Khan, yet another journalist mourning his untimely demise, says:
"From humanitarian crises to life-threatening violence, Danish Siddiqui has captured some of the most iconic, defining photographs of the last decade."
"Danish was an outstanding, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, a devoted husband and father, and a much-loved colleague. Our thoughts are with his family at this terrible time,” Reuters President Michael Friedenberg and Editor-in-Chief Alessandra Galloni said in a statement.
He is survived by his wife and two young children.
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